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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Question: How do you Write a Quiz? Answer: Read this Blog Post

While I've written and published just about everything (articles, books, essays, and novels, to name a few), I'm primarily a service journalist. Most of my writing is about how and why to do something--think easy ways to get more veggies into your diet, how laughter can make you healthier, and how getting more active can also improve your sleep habits.

But even I get burned out on taking the same old, same old approach to topics. That's why I write a lot of quizzes and use them either to start an article or as a sidebar. Quizzes can be a fun change from the typical service article, and they’re simpler to write than you might think. In addition, editors love them—they’re a popular way to test readers’ knowledge of a subject and to share information in an accessible, often entertaining format. And they add the essential interactive element for online markets.

Once you’ve chosen the subject matter of your quiz (for example, “what’s your money personality?”), consider the length and format of the quiz. Will it be a multiple choice, for example, or true/false? Also determine whether the quiz will be the main feature of the piece, or an accompanying sidebar.

As with any other nonfiction article, you’ll have to conduct background research, interview experts, locate relevant studies, statistics and the like before you begin writing. The more you know about the subject you’re covering, the stronger the quiz will be. As you research the subject, keep a running list of possible questions and answers—this will make it easier when you it’s time to draft the questions.

When it comes to writing the questions, here’s a tip I figured out early on: if you’re writing a self-assessment quiz (e.g., “test your sex IQ”), order the answers so they correspond with the categories you’ll eventually break down the results into—for example, all “A” answers correspond to “Wild Child,” all "B" answers correspond to “Hot and Heavy,” and so on. Or you can assign points to answers (4 points for every A, 3 points for every B, etc.) and have readers tally their scores after taking the quiz.

Finally, write the quiz key, which conveys information to the reader. If you’re writing a self-assessment quiz, the key should offer specific advice and tips geared to the different categories you describe; if it’s a quiz testing a reader’s knowledge of a subject, make sure you include an explanation of each correct answer.

Writing quizzes isn’t rocket science, and magazine editors appreciate freelancers who can enliven evergreen subjects with these kinds of interactive elements. It’s one more way to help set you and your work apart from the other freelancers out there.